An Arlington legislator has abandoned for this year a controversial plan to establish a county housing finance agency, bowing to opponents who argued that his bill went against the wishes of county voters.
Democratic Del. James Almand said today that he would not introduce this year a bill setting up an agency that could sell tax-exempt bonds to pay for renovations on low-to-moderate-income housing.
"I was afraid that at this point there was a misunderstanding about the legislation that would have done a disservice to the whole idea," said Almand.
The Arlington County Board had voted not to include such legislation in its package of bills requested of the Virginia General Assembly this year, after Republicans argued that Almand's proposal was too similar to a proposal defeated in a referendum in November.
Democrats, now in the majority on the County Board, said they need more time to study the issue. "The board felt it hadn't gone through [the proposal] enough for us to know what we wanted," said Democrat John Milliken.
On Nov. 2, Arlington voters voted 2 to 1 to reject the creation of a Housing and Redevelopment Authority, which opponents argued would be the first step toward creation of public housing in the county. Almand and other Democrats argued that the authority was needed simply as a vehicle to finance renovations for low-to-moderate-income residents, many of whom can no longer afford to live in the county.
After the referendum's defeat, Almand proposed an alternative that he described as much more restrictive and that would explicitly bar public housing. The proposed finance agency, patterned after financing mechanisms that exist elsewhere in Virginia, would also have been more directly accountable to the County Board, he said.
But opponents rallied against the Almand plan, saying it came too soon after the defeat of the proposed housing authority. "What he wanted was overkill in the first place, then to try and end run it--I was surprised to see him pushing that right away," said Republican County Board member Walter Frankland.
Today, Frankland welcomed Almand's decision not to pursue the legislation this year. "He saw the political handwriting on the wall," said Frankland. "He recognizes he probably made a mistake."
Almand said he hopes the County Board will continue to study the various options for low-interest financing for housing renovations, either through a separate agency or with existing industrial revenue bonds.